How to Become an Urban Planner in Oregon

Oregon MapOregon is a state that has seen many changes over the years. As of 2019, the U.S. Census Bureau noted that Oregon’s population was 4.2 million. People are attracted to the state due to its mild climate, access to outdoor recreation and beautiful views. All of these factors taken together ensure that Oregon’s population will continue to grow.

Almost 75 percent of Oregon’s population resides in the Willamette Valley. Within the next half-century, the population of this region of the state is expected to double, primarily in the Portland area, per the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis.  It is clear that, with all of the migration and expansion expected to continue in Oregon, job opportunities for Urban Planners statewide should flourish.

Career website ranks Oregon second among all states in terms of the number of jobs for Urban Planners per capita. With a location quotient of 2.34 as of 2019, the state boasted 60 Urban Planner jobs that year. If you are interested in becoming an Urban Planner in the Beaver State, keep reading.

Urban Planner Wages in Oregon

Urban planners working in Oregon earned an average median salary of $82,110 in May 2019, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They note that the state ranks fifth among top-paying states in which urban planners work.  Oregon is generally viewed as a lucrative area in which urban planners can be employed. Urban planners in Oregon’s most populated metropolitan areas earned the following:

  • Coastal Oregon $75,050
  • Eugene $75,700
  • Hillsboro $86,580
  • Portland $86,580
  • Salem $81,640
  • Vancouver $86,580

Urban Planning Laws and Regulations in Oregon

Due to the continued growth of Oregon, the state has put measures into place to ensure that growth remains sustainable and sensible. Some of these include Urban Growth Boundaries (UGB), which are designed to prevent urban sprawl and protect forest lands and farmland; affordable housing initiatives; transportation planning; economic development; planning for public facilities; and recreation planning.

Cities and municipalities in Oregon are subject to restrictions and guidelines set by the state. In 1973, Oregon established 19 Land Use Planning Goals, to which all local cities and municipalities are expected to conform. These goals include:

  • Citizen involvement (all citizens must have the opportunity to be involved in the planning process)
  • Land use planning (a land use policy framework should be established to be used as a basis for all future planning decisions)
  • Agricultural lands
  • Forest lands
  • Open spaces, scenic and historic areas, and natural resources
  • Air, water and land resources quality
  • Areas subject to natural disasters and hazards
  • Recreational needs
  • Economic development (opportunities must be provided statewide for economic activities that will improve the health, welfare and prosperity of Oregonians)
    • Planning within a region must take into account the comparative advantage of that region. Comparative advantage industries will represent the most efficient use of the region’s resources.
  • Housing
  • Public facilities and services
  • Transportation (provide a safe, efficient and convenient transportation system)
  • Energy conservation
  • Urbanization (provide an efficient, orderly transition from rural to urban land use)
  • Willamette River Greenway
  • Estuarine resources
  • Coastal shore lands
  • Beaches and dunes
  • Ocean resources

Oregon’s Urban Growth Boundaries and Urban/Rural Reserves

Portland carries the distinction of being the only directly elected regional government and metropolitan planning organization in the country. Its regional government is called Metro, and was established in 1979 to lead the counties of Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas.

The Department of Land Conservation and Development in Oregon is responsible for setting in place Urban Growth Boundaries (UGBs).  They surround each city in the state and consist of lines drawn on planning maps to show where a city is expected to grow over the next 20 years. UGBs may be expanded through cooperation from the city and county and coordination with services within that particular urban area.

In 2007, Oregon’s legislature authorized counties and cities to identify land that might be developed in the future, as well as rural land that they wished to be preserved for forestry, farming and other uses. These are called urban and rural reserves. They may be estimated by local governments, and are designed to offer a 30- to 50-year projection for a city’s or region’s long-term growth.

Oregon Coastal Management Program

The Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development’s Coastal Management Program  is designed to protect the state’s coastal lands. Much of this is accomplished through the national Coastal Zone Management Program, established in 1972, as Oregon is one of 34 coastal states participating in the program. Oregon’s own Coastal Management Program, approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 1977, represents Oregon’s application of the national program. It covers Oregon’s coastal zone, which includes land along the Umpqua River, Rogue River and in the Columbia River Basin.

Rural Planning and Development in Oregon

Rural planning and development is just as important, if not more so, as urban planning in the state of Oregon. Under the state’s planning program, rural land is conserved for forestry and farming as well as to protect wildlife habitat and natural resources. Urban sprawl development is discouraged outside of urban growth boundaries.

Measure 49

Oregon’s Ballot Measure 49, which was passed by the state’s legislature and approved by voters in 2007, allows for compensation for landowners under certain conditions. Namely, if a local government or the state enacts laws that restrict residential usage, farm or forestry usage of land, reducing that land’s fair market value, the landowner may qualify for compensation. A landowner must file a claim within five years of the land use regulation being passed. When filing this claim, the landowner must show that the regulation restricts farm practice, forest practice or residential use and that it has reduced the fair market value of the property.

Undergraduate Urban Planning Degree Programs in Oregon

The first step on your path towards becoming an Urban Planner in Oregon is to obtain an undergraduate degree in a related field. Some examples of recommended undergraduate degree programs include:

  • Portland State University – Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Community Development
  • University of Oregon, Eugene – Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Planning, Public Policy and Management

Graduate Urban Planning Degree Programs in Oregon

National urban planning organizations, like the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP), the American Planning Association (APA), and the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) of the APA, suggest that you choose a graduate urban planning degree program that is accredited by the   Planning Accreditation Board (PAB). There are two well-recognized PAB-accredited graduate urban planning degree programs in Oregon:


  • Portland State University, Portland- Master of Urban & Regional Planning

College of Urban & Public Affairs, Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies & Planning

P.O. Box 751

Portland, OR 97207-0751

Accreditation through December 31, 2020

Aaron Golub, Director



  • University of Oregon, Eugene – Master of Community & Regional Planning

School of Planning, Public Policy & Management, Graduate Program in Community & Regional Planning

119 Hendricks Hall
Eugene, OR 97403-1209
Accreditation through December 31, 2023
Rebecca Lewis, Director


Become Professionally Certified as an Urban Planner in Oregon

American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP)

It is recommended by the American Planning Association- Oregon Chapter that the state’s Urban Planners become professionally certified. This certification is attainable by passing an examination given by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).Certification can increase your chances of getting good jobs as well as help you to earn a higher salary. The Oregon Chapter of the APA offers information to help you prepare for the exam at its website.

The following Prometric testing centers in Oregon host the AICP certification exam:

  • Bend – 2150 NE Studio Road
  • Eugene – 1500 Valley River Drive
  • Portland – 14623 S.E. McLoughlin Blvd.
  • Portland – 1122 NE 122nd
  • La Grande – 1901 Adams Ave.
  • Medford – 101 South Bartlett St.

Maintaining Your AICP Membership in Oregon

AICP’s Certification Maintenance (CM) program assists you in finding mandatory continuing education to maintain your certification. You must earn 32 CM credits every two years, including 1.5 CMs in Planning Ethics and Planning Laws.  Examples of upcoming CM activities in Oregon include:

  • OAPA Webinar: Planning for Pollinators in the Pacific Northwest
  • Webcast: Making Room for Middle Housing: HB 2001 and Lessons from Oregon
  • Updating Your Comprehensive Plan – Choosing the Right Approach for your Community

Other Professional Certifications

Alternate certification agencies also offer the following specialized professional certifications:

Urban Planner Careers and Jobs in Oregon

Oregon offers a plethora of urban planning jobs and career opportunities, in both the private and public sectors. The state’s unique regulations regarding urban and rural planning help to create a myriad of jobs for those holding graduate degrees in the urban planning field. Some examples of potential job titles for those with such degrees include Transportation Planner, Environmental Planner, City Planner, Economic Development Director, and Economic Diversification Coordinator.

Urban planning projects in Oregon within recent years have included:

  • Portland Central City 2035this long-term plan is designed to guide development within Portland’s Central City area
  • Oregon City Riverwalk – new riverwalk for Oregon City’s 22- acre waterfront area
  • Oregon Housing Planning Program – providing affordable housing statewide
  • Portland’s Green Loop – urban design program for Portland with a six-mile park and transportation path

Internship opportunities may be provided by your graduate program in urban planning. Examples of recent internships in Oregon have included:

  • Sustainability Manufacturing and Sourcing Internship – Nike, Beaverton
  • Transportation Planning Internship – City of Portland
  • Make-a-Wish Foundation – Portland
  • Urban Design Intern- City of Hillsboro

Public Sector Urban Planning Jobs in Oregon

Opportunities for jobs within the public sector in Oregon have included:

  • District Planner – City of Portland
  • CDBG Development Project Coordinator – City of Beaverton
  • Senior Planner – City of Lincoln City
  • Rangeland Management Specialist – US Department of Agriculture, Condon

Private Sector Urban Planning Jobs in Oregon

Opportunities for jobs within Oregon’s private sector have included:

  • Strategic Planning Manager, Global Sustainability – Nike, Beaverton
  • Land Use Planner- DOWL, Portland
  • Environmental Planner – Tetra Tech, Portland

Urban Planning and Real Estate Industry Outlook in Oregon

In 2018, per the National Association of Realtors, the real estate industry in Oregon made up $48.4 billion, or 20.3 percent of the gross state product. Confidence in Oregon’s real estate market remains high, with commercial real estate and construction largely driving the optimism. In particular, construction on affordable housing and infrastructure as well as public-private partnerships has increased. However, amusement, retail and hotel project construction has decreased in Oregon.

Oregon is home to one of the most progressive planning and policy environments in the entire nation. This fact, along with the state’s robust real estate market, equals an exciting and bright future for those wishing to become urban planners in the state.

Additional Urban Planning Resources in Oregon